Week 0 -How I started reading tons of self-improvement books!

2016 was the year in which for the first time in my life I needed to make both physical and mental changes, although having a good job, good house, many close friends and a long term boyfriend, I did not feel at place and especially I was still unhappy overall. It is easy to just follow the trend and never stop and think on what you really want and need.

I was unhappy because I did not like the cold & rain of Paris, I disliked not having any purpose besides going to work in the morning and meeting friends for a drink in the evening, I was not satisfied by my well paid but extremely boring job, I was sad because things with my boyfriend were not going anywhere. Of course changing some of these things could have solved it partially, but the overall dissatisfaction was within me, I wanted to change my way of thinking about life because otherwise you end up having everything and still feeling unfulfilled.

I was not exactly consciously looking for answers at that time, but one day I found myself in the self-improvement book section of my local book shop and stumbled into L’art de la Simplicité (The English Edition): How to Live More With Less, by Dominique Loreau.

“Having lived in Japan for many years and inspired by oriental philosophy, Dominique Loreau discovered the beauty of a life well lived through the art of simplicity. Her lifestyle rests on the principle of ‘less is more’, and imbues all areas of existence, from the material to the spiritual. “

This book is important to me as it was the first of many. I am a big reader but only of novels. Since this book I have become curious of every piece on advice that can be found through this kind of readings. The concept of self-improvement books or just of looking for help is still a taboo in France (we are not keen on looking weak, self improvement books are often laughed about which is absurd as people really seem to need more of them).

To get back to the book, it basically explains how to simplify your home / life / routine / relationships & take care of yourself, in order to feel better in your home (which should be a Safe Haven) and in your body and mind.

In the first part of the book she details how to declutter your home and wardrobe with very practical suggestions and exhaustive list of items you should own while explaining why you should fix all these little things that annoy you daily (a wobbly table, a leaking tap, a broken light bulb) and disrupt your inner peace. She also insists on getting rid of unused items (books, clothes, furniture) that only use space but are of no value to you: living simply is about streamlining your life, making things easier, taking joy in the items you do chose to keep (she is a little extreme as she advises to through away EVERY souvenir you own as they are not “useful” in your daily life). Besides that the whole concept is that seeing  your house should be peaceful and having your shelves, cupboards, tables filled with tons of items is stressful.

She is also very strict on personal appearance: in the second part of the book she explains how a woman should always look feminine, be confident and classy. You should have enough sleep, avoid feelings of hatred and anxiety that will also ruin your appearance and take care of your body with natural products and daily routines used by Asian women:

  • Avoid a bathroom filled with products and use just a few natural products like one oil (avocado, almond, olive,…) for body, face, hair, nails,
  • Always have perfectly kept hands,
  • Brush your body with a natural boar hair brush before showering in evening and morning to eliminate impurities, activate blood circulation & eliminate cellulite,
  • Drink apple cider in hot water in the morning to detoxify your body,
  • Fast for short or long period of times,

These are just some of the recommendations she gives.

In the third part of the book she explains how to keep and healthy and happy mind:

  • Train your brain to push aside all negative thoughts by getting busy doing things you like (have a bath, read a good book, watch a movie). The thought is still there and your brain will work on it until it is OK for you to think about it, getting back to sad thoughts continuously is destructive and prevents you to look at the positive in your life.
  • Hard times on life are also opportunities to make a step back and change things that do not work. Do not focus on the past but on how to make this day and future ones great. You are not the same person you were yesterday and past mistakes should not repeat themselves. Make plans of what you want to achieve and focus on that exciting thought.
  • Learn how to make decisions quickly to avoid feeling overstressed for too long while deciding.
  • Meditate every day to recharge (everything I have read since encourages meditation). I have tried different meditation App, I am now using Headspace but there are many more available and it is really a question of personal taste.
  • Visualize what you want and trust that all will work for the best while only allowing positive thoughts. It may sound naive but having no doubts about your success while being happy while waiting isn’t it better than feeling anxious until it happens?

This book is so much richer and although some concepts are a little extreme the main word is “simplify”, do not overcomplicate things & avoid what disrupts your peace of mind.

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Seeing how these simple pieces of advice could be effective I decided to find books that could help me become a better and happier person. One thing that I have always found unacceptable is to see people that have debilitating flaws like jealousy, aggressiveness, impatience, bad temper, but never care to do something about it and instead impose it to their close ones because “that’s who they are”.

I am not perfect, I have a bad temper, I can be impulsive and extreme in happiness and sadness. But I do not like it and I want to change it if I can: for me but also for the people that love me. Hence the second revealing book: J’arrete De Raler! (literally “I stop complaining!”) by Christine Lewicki (not yet translated in French but you can find her blog or Facebook page).

“Christine Lewicki is a Bestselling Author, Speaker & Coach. She is committed to help people quit complaining and become entrepreneurs of their lives. You can download your FREE ”I Quit Complaining Starter Kit” on her blog www.iquitcomplaining.com

The challenge of this book is to learn over 21 consecutive days to change your reflexes, refrain from complaining and realize that this will gradually change your thoughts and feelings.

“To avoid temper tantrums, it is also as important not to suppress your frustration. Be vigilant as to when the pressure rises. Set limits, express your needs to your supervisor, learn how to say no, ask for help…”.

The book is not about hiding your feelings and avoiding expressing your frustration (which is worse) but either deal with it when it is not justified (learn to feel less angry, forgive, do not hold grudges) and learn to express yourself calmly and intelligently when needed.

So I understand that this concept might not be very popular outside France, but we are known to be very grumpy people and not necessarily because we are particularly unhappy about something but because it is a habit and we express ourselves this way. We often tell our misfortunes as a way to engage conversation, our first topic in the morning would be to complain on how much traffic there was or how cold it is. Unfortunately, as thinking in a positive way leads to happiness, complaining leads to negative thinking.

These two books have been a nice way to begin my change of mindset. On the next post Week 0 – How I went looking for the secret of happiness I will be reviewing 4 books that have accompanied the end of my 2016: following some major events in my personal life (the end of a long term relationship followed by a very short term crush and breakup) I ended up..confused to say the least. And obviously I went looking for answers and peace in readings…

 

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